Cheryl Hampton was not about to turn her back on the family home.
Hampton grew up in a home built on land that her great-great-great-grandparents JJ and Panola Ford purchased from their slave master in 1912. A century later in 2012, the family heritage had fallen into jeopardy when, after her parents passed away, Hampton learned the Marianna, Arkansas, property was facing foreclosure.
After being turned away by the bank who had given her parents a loan, she tried to make ends meet but, earning around $1,000 per month, “I just couldn’t catch up no matter how hard I tried.”
That’s when she heard about Opportunity Centers program run by community development financial institution Southern Bancorp Community Partners, whose mission is to promote economic mobility in the region.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard the words ‘I can help you,’” Hampton recalled. “It was the first time I believed that I was going to make it.”
The OC program, which is supported by a $100,000 donation from U.S. Bank Community Development Entity, provides financial services to low and moderate-income residents in Arkansas and Mississippi. Through it, Hampton received a loan to restructure personal debt, make home repairs and pay the outstanding property taxes. She also learned about credit reports, budgeting and saving money.
In addition to financial assistance and education, Hampton found a relatable voice in Southern Bancorp Community Partners President Dr. Karama Neal.
Like Hampton, Neal knows what it’s like to protect a sentimental family asset. She tells the story of her great-great-grandfather Griffin Henry Belk learning 150 years ago from a passerby that slavery had been abolished. As a free man, he then spent 10 years searching for his parents – without success, unfortunately – before working and saving to realize his dream of becoming a homeowner. His wish, Neal said, was for the land to remain in his family forever.
His legacy lives on today. In Neal’s role leading Southern Bancorp Community Partners and serving on the board of USBCDE, she focuses on increasing access to opportunity and capital in underserved communities. She has also lobbied to pass legislation that installed legal protections that help families retain property.
“Our goal is to remove the barriers that keep people from realizing their dreams of being able to support their families and build a great future,” said Neal.
Now her client Cheryl Hampton, too, has an opportunity to draw from history to shape the future of her family. Amid her fight to save the home, Hampton became legal guardian of two nephews, ages 11 and 12. She is currently in a job training program and said the OC program has helped her get on track financially.
“I’ve learned to adjust my lifestyle,” she said. “It is my goal to keep this home for me and my boys.”
Written by Marcherie Vázquez of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation. Home is a core pillar of U.S. Bank Community Possible, the company’s social responsibility platform through which it focuses on closing the gaps between people and possibility.